Climenheise commented: "As some of your post-ers have noted, there are still young people who defy this image. They go to New Orleans and help out. They spend years in the Middle East living in a conflict situation for the sake of conscience. But as a society we have spent generations creating what you describe in your classroom. I would be interested in your own further analysis of what's going on."
For the uninitiated, Climenheise is the nom-de-plume of my brother. He and I have had pieces of this conversation on generations before. He, too, is a professor--in fact, he teaches students at an advanced level in a seminary in Manitoba.
In a prior post, some time back, I wrote about making a reference (to Wayne Newton) in class and getting blank stares from my students. Always a humbling experience--that. It makes one feel. . .old. After writing that post, my brother sent me a link for the Beloit College Mindset list. For eleven years, Beloit College has been assembling a list of things the new class entering college would have as a common frame of reference. You can go here to read more about this list, and even see prior years.
This list helps me know what I can expect in terms of student reactions to events or people I may refer to in class discussion. Here's what Beloit observes about the current freshmen class--the class of 2012:
The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.
It is a multicultural, politically correct and “green” generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact.
Maybe that description helps to form an answer my "what generation is this" question.
I also recall reading that a generation is shaped by the events when people were coming of age--also a topic of a previous post for me. So, take the birth years, then add about 20 years and examine the events of that time span. Those are the events that will shape that generation.
That doesn't really give me an answer to "what generation is this" but it's a beginning. I agree--the selfishness that the response my students gave in class is NOT a universal trait of this generation. For example, students use their spring break weeks to work in place like the Gulf Coast striken with multiple hurricanes.
Well, for now, I will leave the rumination of generational identity aside. You all can keep answering, and giving me suggestions. Every little bit helps.